|Publication number||US7694233 B1|
|Application number||US 10/835,458|
|Publication date||Apr 6, 2010|
|Priority date||Apr 30, 2004|
|Also published as||US9037997, US9411487, US20100287494, US20150248191|
|Publication number||10835458, 835458, US 7694233 B1, US 7694233B1, US-B1-7694233, US7694233 B1, US7694233B1|
|Original Assignee||Apple Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (11), Non-Patent Citations (1), Referenced by (26), Classifications (9), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention is directed to graphical user interfaces for computers, and more particularly to the simultaneous display of multiple items of information in a manner that facilitates user comprehension and navigation among the items of information.
During typical use of a computer, such as a personal computer, a variety of situations arise in which multiple items of information are presented to the user. For instance, the user may have several applications open, and each application typically has one or more containers to display content associated with the application. In many graphical user interfaces, such containers take the form of windows. The various items of information, i.e. the content of the respective windows, may be unrelated to one another. In other situations, the various items of information may have a structured relationship to one another. An example of this latter situation is a display of the contents of the computer's file system.
A computer's file system is responsible for managing the reading and writing of data on storage devices that are mounted on the computer, for example internal disk drives, network storage devices, and the like. In the case of personal computers and workstations, a graphical user interface might be used to view the structure of the file system, e.g. the hierarchy of objects such as directories, folders and files stored therein. Typically, the graphical user interface provides a plurality of alternative ways in which to view the contents of the file system. For example, one approach may comprise a hierarchical view, in which the nested relationship of files and folders to one another is displayed in the form of a tree structure. A browser can be associated with this type of view, in which the hierarchical view of folders and files is displayed in one pane of the browser window. When the user selects a folder in that pane, the contents of that folder are displayed in another pane of the window. Each pane represents a separate container of information.
In another approach, sometimes identified as an icon view, the files and folders at a particular level of the file system structure are displayed as individual icons within a window. If the user clicks upon a folder within that window, the contents of that folder are displayed. Depending on user preferences, the new information pertaining to the contents of the folder might replace the previous information within the existing window, or a new window might be displayed in an overlapping manner on top of the existing window.
A column view offers another approach for displaying the contents of a file system. An example of the column view is illustrated in
If the user clicks on one of the folders in the second column 18, the display changes to that illustrated in
If the user clicks on one of the folders in the third column 20, the display changes to that illustrated in
In a similar manner, if the user clicks on a folder in the fourth column 24, the display changes to that illustrated in
It may be possible for the user to expand the size of the window, so that a greater number of columns might be viewed at once. However, there is a practical limit to the size of the window, and hence the number of columns that can be viewed simultaneously. As a result, if more than a few levels of the file system are to be accessed, not all of the columns can appear in the window together, and it becomes necessary for the user to scroll the displayed columns in order to view the contents of the various levels of the file system that are not adjacent one another.
As a result of the need to scroll the display in order to view separated columns, the user is unable to obtain an overview of the total path from the highest level in the file system to a folder or file of interest. Since the user is only presented with a view that is limited to a few adjacent levels of the file system at any one time, it is difficult to obtain the full context of the file system. For example, when viewing the fifth, sixth and seventh columns illustrated in
The foregoing problem is not limited to file system viewers. In general, it can arise in the context of any set of information in which the various items of information have a structured relationship to one another, such as a hierarchical relationship, and it is desirable to view such relationship over an appreciable range of items. For instance, it can occur in an application which displays program code objects in the form of a hierarchy.
In accordance with one feature of the present invention, the graphical user interface provides a display of multiple containers of information in a manner such that the user can comprehend the relationship of various items in the containers to one another over a wide span. To achieve this result, at least some of the containers are allocated a reduced amount of area in which to be viewed by the user. At least one container continues to be displayed in full view, however. In one embodiment, the containers are displayed in an overlapping arrangement. In a column view, for instance, the column containing the object that was last clicked upon, and the column showing the contents of the selected object, can be displayed in full view. The other columns may be only partially visible, due to the overlapping arrangement. However, the user is presented with enough information to comprehend the relationship of objects at different levels. As a result of this arrangement, the user is able to view the entire path leading from the highest level of the information structure to an object of interest without undue scrolling.
Techniques other than overlap can be used to display containers with a reduced viewing area. For instance, rather than obscuring some of the contents of a container by overlapping, it may be preferable to scale the container in one or both dimensions, so that the entire contents of the container remain visible in the reduced area, albeit in compressed form. As another example, an animation can be applied to the containers so that they appear to rotate out of the plane of the display and become stacked closer together.
As another feature of the invention, when the user moves a cursor over a container with a reduced viewing area, or otherwise directs attention to such a container, the other containers move on the display to show that container in full view. This feature of the invention can be applied to any type of information containers that are displayed in a reduced area. For example, in addition to overlapping columns, it can be utilized in conjunction with windows that have an overlapping arrangement on a display. By simply navigating around the display area, for example by moving a cursor, the user can be presented with a full view of the contents of any given container.
Further features of the invention, and the advantages achieved thereby, are described hereinafter with reference to exemplary embodiments illustrated in the accompanying figures.
To facilitate an understanding of the present invention, it is described hereinafter with reference to its implementation in an operating system for personal computers. Further in this regard, examples of a graphical user interface are provided with reference to a file system column view in the Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS) developed by Apple Computer, Inc., to provide the reader with specific examples of the concepts which underlie the invention. It will be appreciated, however, that the invention is not limited to these illustrative examples. Rather, the principles upon which the invention is based can be applied to a variety of different types of computer operating systems, as will be apparent to those of skill in the art. Likewise, they are not limited to viewing of a file system, and can be used in the presentation of various types of information, as well as different forms of information containers.
An exemplary computer system, of the type in which the present invention can be implemented, is illustrated in block diagram form in
The CPU 34 executes software programs that are retrieved from the permanent storage device 40 or remotely accessible storage devices, and loaded into its working memory 36. Components of the computer's operating system that are involved in the implementation of the present invention are depicted in the block diagram of
The windows manager 68 controls the display of windows in which data is presented to the user. Such data may be documents generated by application programs 62, or the contents of the file system 58. One embodiment of the present invention is described hereinafter with reference to the window in which the contents of the file system are displayed. An example of such a window 70 is illustrated in
A number of different techniques can be employed to display the column 72 in a reduced area. In the example of
Preferably, two of the columns remain in full view, so that the user can read the entire name of a file or folder. These two columns comprise the focus column, which is the latest column that the user clicked upon, and the contents column, which displays the contents of the file or folder that was clicked upon in the focus column. In the example of
However, enough of each column still remains visible to give the user an overview of the relationship of the levels to one another. If the user desires to see the full name of a file or folder in one of the overlapped columns, the cursor can be positioned over the column containing the object of interest. In response, the column beneath the cursor is displayed at its full width, as illustrated in
Preferably, this movement is performed in an animated fashion, to create the impression that the columns are shifting out of the way of the focus column. In one embodiment, once their respective positions are determined, each of the intervening columns can be individually shifted across the display using an ease-out/ease-in algorithm of the type described in U.S. application Ser. No. 09/754,147, filed Jan. 5, 2001, the content of which is incorporated herein by reference. The time period over which the movement takes place can be determined in accordance with the length of the path over which the columns must travel. The greater the number of pixels over which the columns must move, the longer the allotted time of travel can be. Of course, other algorithms for determining the rate of movement can be employed as well.
It may be the case that the user has multiple windows open on the display which each contain a column view of objects. For instance, a window might be open for each of the three file system resources 12, 14 and 16. When the cursor is being moved over the active one of these windows, the positions of the columns within that window can shift immediately in response to such movement. However, when the cursor is traversing one of the inactive windows, for example while it is being moved to a menu bar or dock at one edge of the display, it may be disturbing to have the columns in these inactive windows shift with such movement. Accordingly, a delay can be employed to determine whether columns in inactive windows should move in response to cursor position. If the user pauses the cursor over a column of an inactive window for a suitable period of time, e.g. one second, then the columns in that window can shift positions so that the column beneath the cursor becomes the focus column. However, if the cursor is over the column for less than that period of time, no movement takes place.
In the example of
It may be desirable to establish a minimum width for an overlapped column, to enable the user to assess the identity of the objects in the column. For instance, in the examples of
In one embodiment, the visible portion of each of the overlapped columns can be the same for each such column. To accomplish this result, the widths of the two full-view columns, i.e. the focus and content columns, are subtracted from the total width of the window, and the remaining width of the window is equally allocated among the other columns for the display of their visible portions. The position of each column is calculated, and the columns are displayed at the corresponding positions.
In some cases within this embodiment, however, the visible portions of the overlapped columns could end up being different from one another. This could occur, for instance, if the user manually adjusts the border of one or more of the columns within the window. In this situation, it may be desirable to return the visible portions of the columns to equal widths if the window is resized. The algorithm for determining the sizes of the columns is schematically depicted in
In other embodiments of the invention, the overlapped columns may have different respective widths allocated to their visible portions. For instance, it may be preferable to employ a logarithmic or other non-linear variance among the overlapped columns, in accordance with their distance from the focus column. In such an arrangement, the column closest to the focus column can have the widest visible area, the column next to that can have the next widest visible portion, and so on down to the minimum width for the columns farthest away from the focus column.
To reinforce the impression that the columns overlap one another, it is preferable to display a shadow along the vertical interface of two overlapping columns. For example, a typical shadow might have a width of about five pixels. However, if such a shadow suddenly pops into view at the instant two columns begin to overlap, the effect could be disturbing to the user. In accordance with another feature of the invention, therefore, the width of the shadow gradually grows from the edge of the overlapping column as the visible portion of the adjacent column is reduced. To illustrate,
The foregoing example of the adjustment of a column's visible width is described in the context of resizing a window. The same approach can be employed when columns are added to a window, for example as the user clicks upon objects at successive levels of the file system hierarchy. The same type of animation is preferably employed when a new column is added to the window. Thus, with reference to
The examples of
The ability to slide overlapping containers, to enable the user to navigate among them and see them in full view, is useful in other contexts as well. For instance, it can be utilized in connection with overlapping windows.
Further movement of the cursor in an upward direction can cause additional windows to slide downwardly on the display.
The mechanism to achieve this feature is the same as that described previously in connection with the sliding columns. More particularly, since the user interface, and more specifically the windows manager 68, maintains information regarding the size and position of each open window in the display, it can readily determine the area occupied by any window over which the cursor is positioned, i.e. the focus window. Once this area has been determined, the remaining area of the display is allocated to the other windows that overlap the focus window, either equally or with variance among them. In the case of
The sliding of windows and other containers in this manner to enable the user to obtain a full view of any one of them is advantageous, in that it avoids the need to click on each individual window to bring it to the foreground of the display, which could result in another window being completely hidden behind the one that was clicked upon, and therefore inaccessible. It also avoids the need to minimize windows that overlap a window of interest, which results in a change in the configuration of the displayed windows. With the present invention, the currently active window, e.g. window 112 in the example of
The application of this navigation technique to other types of containers can be envisioned as well. For instance, the pages of a document can be displayed in a stacked arrangement. By moving the cursor over the visible edges of the pages, the user can bring any desired page into full view, with the preceding pages moving out of its way. Another application is text chat boxes associated with instant messaging types of programs. If a user is conducting several conversations at once, such that the boxes overlap one another, it is possible to readily observe any given one of them by simply moving the cursor to the box associated with that chat session. As another example, different workspaces can be brought into view on a display by moving the cursor so that one workspace slides out of view while another moves onto the screen. Similarly, if the user opens multiple web pages within a browser, the cursor can be used to select among the pages within a single browser window, rather than require a separate window for each page.
The implementation of this technique is not limited to movement of the cursor. Rather, it can be employed with any type of user input device that enables the user to direct focus to different containers. For example, some graphical user interfaces enable the user to switch among open windows by means of the keyboard, e.g. actuation of the “Tab” key. As another example, some types of devices employ a scroll wheel to move from one information container to another. Regardless of the mechanism employed to identify a given container, the present invention can be employed to bring that container into full view.
Furthermore, the applicability of this feature of the invention is not limited to user input to select a container. In some situations, system-generated events could cause a particular container to be displayed in full view. For instance, in the context of the text chat application described previously, if a new message is received in one of the open chat boxes, any boxes that overlap that box can move out of its area, to enable the user to read the incoming message. As another example, in a file system view, if a new file is added to a server, the focus can automatically switch to the column associated with the level at which the file was added.
The foregoing examples have been presented with reference to one embodiment of the invention, in which the reduced area for the visible portion of a container is obtained by overlapping adjacent containers. Other techniques can be employed as well to achieve the same general results. For instance, rather than overlapping columns or windows, it is possible to scale the containers to fit into the allocated area. In the case of columns, therefore, the actual width of the column is scaled back to the size of the allocated area. In this situation, the entire contents of the column remain visible, but in a horizontally compressed form.
In another variation, a three-dimensional animation can be applied to the containers, which causes them to appear to swing out of the plane of the display. The result is analogous to the effect of leafing through the pages of a book or scanning through folders in a file drawer.
From the foregoing, it can be seen that the present invention provides a user interface that enables the user to obtain a comprehensive view of multiple items of information that are located in different respective containers. As a result, the user is not required to actively select different containers or scroll across significant distances if a large number of containers are being displayed.
It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the present invention can be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics thereof, and that the invention is not limited to the specific embodiments described herein. The presently disclosed embodiments are therefore considered in all respects to be illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is indicated by the appended claims rather than the foregoing description, and all changes that come within the meaning and range and equivalents thereof are intended to be embraced therein.
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|U.S. Classification||715/790, 715/800, 715/798, 715/788, 715/797|
|Cooperative Classification||G06T15/60, G06F3/0484, G06F3/0481|
|Apr 30, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: APPLE COMPUTER, INC.,CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ORDING, BAS;REEL/FRAME:015296/0459
Effective date: 20040429
|Apr 24, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: APPLE INC.,CALIFORNIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:APPLE COMPUTER, INC.;REEL/FRAME:019235/0583
Effective date: 20070109
Owner name: APPLE INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:APPLE COMPUTER, INC.;REEL/FRAME:019235/0583
Effective date: 20070109
|Sep 4, 2013||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4